Monday, May 16, 2011

"We Once Went To Africa - Part Four"

In preparation for this posting, I went down to the basement and retrieved the large, three-ring binder containing the photographs we took on our safari. (Not all the photographs. This was an important lesson we learned in our “Photo One” class at Santa Monica College. “How do you insure that all your photographs look good? You throw away the bad ones.”)

I don’t know if people bother assembling photographic albums anymore. Photos today are posted on computers. To us, however, this book, reminding us of our struggles to capture these pictures, plus, of course, the photographic record of the experience itself, is special. Bordering on sacred. One of the magical elements is that, since both of us were busy taking pictures, we have no idea who took which ones. Leaving no pride of ownership. Other than dual ownership.

Flipping through the album’s pages, my initial response to these thirty year-old images, was,

“Did we actually do this?”

My response to this response, since the corroborating evidence is abundantly present is,

“If that’s me, standing in front of lake full of hippos – and, there being on Photoshop back then, it indisputably is – then yes. We actually did this.”

It’s just hard to believe. I don’t believe we’d agree to such an undertaking today. Not because we’re old. There are plenty of old people who devote their Golden Years to all sorts of challenging adventures. But there are other old people who don’t. And I believe that, amongst that more sedentary subcategory, would be us. Today, it requires all we have to go out to the movies.

Before leaving on our safari, I paid a visit to the local bank, to report the theft of our Travelers’ Checks. (As I mentioned the last time, the perpetrator(s) had lifted every third check in our now-depleted packet. I was later informed that the lack of consecutive serial numbers make the checks more difficult to trace. Okay, now, I feel like one of those guys who posts directions on how to build a bomb in your basement. “I read how to do it on the Internet.”

(Travelers Check Thieves: Please ignore what I just said about the serial numbers. Who knows if this is actually the case. I mean, a person would have be nuts to embark on a life of crime, based on a tip from some stranger who may not know what he’s talking about. I don’t even know if they have Travelers’ Checks anymore. At any rate, should you decide to proceed with your nefarious activities, I ask you politely – though as incipient thieves you may not respond to politeness – please do not credit me for your education on this matter. Thank you.)

I informed the bank teller that we were going on safari for eight days. (Although I probably didn’t use the word “safari.” It’s not my word. It’s his. And I’d feel uncomfortable using it in front of him.) The teller assured me that after Telexing bank headquarters for authorization, the replacement Travelers’ Checks would be waiting for us when we returned, which was exceedingly good news, since we’d be proceeding on to London, and we were extremely low on money.

I shall complete this tale here, as I might otherwise forget. Eight days later when we returned from safari, I went straight to the bank to pick up our replacement Travelers’ Checks. There, the very same bank teller who had assured me our replacement Travelers’ Checks would be waiting for us happily informed me,

“We will be sending the Telex on Tuesday.”

(Epilog: When I returned home, I immediately went to my local branch of the Bank of America, where I received a credit for our stolen Travelers’ Checks within twenty minutes.)

Our other pre-safari piece of business was a trip to the Nairobi Police Station to – as we were required to by law – make a formal report of the pilfering. I had little hope of quick “collar”, as there were boxes of files in there stacked up all the way to the ceiling, and I imagined us not being “Top Priority.” I really didn’t care that much. I was just grateful they let me out of the building.

Our last stop in Nairobi was at an animal orphanage. This was not a zoo. I knew that, because there was a prominent sign posted saying, “This is an animal orphanage. Not a zoo.”

The Animal Orphanage had cages. But a number of them had no tops on them. As a result, the orphan chimpanzees housed in those cages were able, and apparently welcome, to climb out of those cages, and walk around with the visitors. I found this very usual, though I am admittedly more familiar with zoos than I am with animal orphanages. In zoos, the animals are “in there”, and we are “out here.” Animal orphanages, on the other hand are, at least in some situations, “Cage Optional.”

It’s true. They really aren’t the same.

We saw our first cheetah at the animal orphanage. It would also be our last cheetah. Though our guide gave it his best shot, we spotted no cheetahs in the wild. (Those guys can really “camouflage up.”) Our album includes a picture of the animal orphanage cheetah. His cage, thankfully, had a top.

I will “drumroll” tomorrow’s posting by saying that we visited five different game parks. We did that, because every game park has a slightly different terrain, each attractive to different species of animals. To see as many animals as you can, safariers are required to check out these different habitats. Also, because of the seasonal availability of water, the animals migrate around, requiring visitors to travel to a lot of different places to find them.

On the pre-trip advice of TV director, Jim Burrows, who had taken the same safari a year earlier, we arranged to fly between the game parks, rather than drive. This was not a luxury issue, as you would quickly realize, if you’d taken a look at those planes. It was purely a safety concern.

On the one leg of the safari we were unable to cover by airplane, a driver had been arranged to transport us to our destination. As we drove along, I noticed numerous large, filled-in black circles painted on the roadway.

“What are those?” I inquired of our driver.

“They are called ‘Black Spots.’ They designate where an automobile fatality has taken place.”

“Why are there so many of them?”

“During the Rainy Season, the constant downpour wears away the outer edges of the pavement. So the drivers stay closer to the middle. And when they do, they crash into each other.”

There were “Black Spots” everywhere. That’s why we flew between game parks.

Tomorrow: “Animals! Animals! Animals!”

Note: I don't know what happened to PART TWO. But it's on now. You can read it after today's posting. Or, if possible, last Thursday. That's where it's posted. Last Thursday. May the twelfth. Sorry about the mixup. I'm at this thing's mercy.


JED said...

Don't blame yourself for the temporarily missing Part 2. It was Blogger itself that had the problem. Like you, I found that a post on my blog was missing (from Wednesday, May 11 but it may be that you actually entered your post that day when the Blogger problem occurred). There was a note on Blogger about them doing some maintenance and that everything would be restored soon. It wasn't and I didn't have your patience. I found my post back in the Drafts area but missing the final changes I'd made (as well as missing the picture I'd inserted). I made what changes I could remember and re-posted that entry. I should have just waited like you did.

Mac said...

It was blog-apocalypse on Wednesday, Ken Levine's was down as well, for 'maintenance' apparently.
I'm really enjoying these Africa stories. Cheers.

Max Clarke said...

Thanks for the Africa series, Earl, lots of nuggets to appreciate.

Your mention of black spots reminds me of a Russian I knew once, Alex, residing in Berkeley on a green card. When we rode together on the roads of the Bay Area, he always drove so close to the right, we were always narrowly missing signs and car mirrors. It was scary, sitting in the right seat and watching Alex coming up on cars and mailboxes.

One day I confronted Alex about his dangerous practice. He said he avoided the center of the roads because he was Russian. If you drove near the center lines, you'd be killed. Too many drunk drivers crossing over the median.

He improved his driving by avoiding the right edge of the road, and I learned something about Russia.